Coffee: Health Drink For Older Women?

GENERIC coffee GETTY

The latest buzz on coffee and health is that drinking one to three cups of coffee per day might help save postmenopausal women's hearts.

A 15-year study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows fewer deaths from heart disease or other non-cancerous inflammatory diseases among postmenopausal women who reported drinking at least one to three daily cups of coffee.

If coffee was responsible for those results, "the implications are considerable, being that coffee is the second most widely consumed drink worldwide," write the researchers. They included Lene Frost Andersen, Ph.D., of the nutrition department at Norway's University of Oslo.

Coffee is a major dietary source of antioxidants, which may curb inflammation and heart disease, write Andersen and colleagues, stressing that their findings need to be confirmed.

About The Study

Data came from 27,312 postmenopausal women who took part in the Iowa Women's Health study. When the study began in 1986, participants were 55-69 years old and hadn't been diagnosed with conditions including heart disease, diabetes, or cancer (except for skin cancer).

The women completed a 127-item survey about their daily coffee consumption, cigarette and alcohol use, and other health habits (including diet and exercise). None of the women were asked to drink more or less coffee — or change anything else in their lives — for the study's sake.

The women were followed for 15 years. During that time, a total of 1,411 participants died of heart disease, 1,733 died of cancer, and 1,211 died of other diseases.

The women who had reported drinking one to three daily cups of coffee (or more) at the study's start were less likely to have died of heart disease or other inflammatory diseases (but not cancer) during the study.

Lower Heart Death Rates

Want the fine print on the results?

Women who reported drinking one to three daily cups of coffee at the study's start were 24 percent less likely to die of heart disease during the study, compared with those who didn't drink coffee.

Women who reported drinking one to three daily cups of coffee at the study's start were also 28 percent less likely to die of other non-cancerous inflammatory diseases, compared with those who didn't drink coffee, the study shows. Cancer deaths did not show any association with coffee consumption.

Those results are adjusted for other factors and "were not repeated for other beverages, including tea, fruit juice, sugar-sweetened drinks, diet soda, and skim, low-fat, and whole milk," write Andersen and colleagues.

Grounds For Future Research

Andersen's team calls for caution in interpreting the results.

The study doesn't prove that coffee consumption was solely responsible for the findings. The data also doesn't show antioxidant levels in the women's coffee.

"In conclusion, our results are consistent with a protective effect of intake of one to three cups of coffee per day on total death and death from cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases in a group of postmenopausal women," the researchers write.

SOURCE: Andersen, L. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2006; Vol. 83: pp. 1039-1046.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
© 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

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